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Older Patients and Clinical Studies

If you are an older patient, you may think clinical trials are not for you. But this is not necessarily the case. Although older patients are still underrepresented nationally in clinical trials, this trend is starting to change.

"Attitudes toward older patients in clinical trials are changing," says Dr. F. Marc Stewart, medical director at SCCA. "We encourage older people to consider clinical trials, since many of our studies use approaches that previously might have been limited to younger patients, but now, due to research advances, are very appropriate for older people."

Only 25 percent of participants in clinical trials are aged 65 or older, although more than half of all cancer patients are in this age group. In order to generalize the results of a clinical trial to the broader population, the group of people enrolled in the trial needs to be representative of the broader population of people who get cancer.

Enrolling more older people in clinical trials would, simply put, result in better science.

No matter what your age, if you have cancer, you may want to consider any clinical trials that are open to you when you are discussing treatment options with your doctors.

For example, SCCA offers a "mini-transplant" (also called a non-myeloablative stem-cell transplant) for people over age 50 with leukemia, lymphoma, and a number of other blood and genetic disorders. This treatment is offered through a Phase II clinical trial, and is intended for people who might not be able to tolerate the rigors of a conventional bone-marrow transplant.

Click here to read more about mini-transplants.

Doctors at SCCA are also involved in a clinical trial testing chemotherapy treatment in women aged 70 or older who have metastatic breast cancer. The Phase II trial will answer questions about how well older patients handle chemotherapy and the feasibility of enrolling older patients in clinical trials.